Featured: Y La Bamba
1. Panda Bear – Buoys (Domino, Rock)
Even as one quarter of Animal Collective, it’s impossible to mistake Panda Bear’s style. The modern Brian Wilson vocal, the mathematically sound rhythms, and the underwater bass tones are all his trademarks. So when a new album of his arrives, what can we expect? As it were, you can’t expect anything. Another album that casts off the skin of his previous releases, Buoys is buoyant and sunny, and never fails to show off Panda’s infatuation with childhood bliss. Interestingly, you can say these same things about all of his work – you just have to hear it to see what its made of. “Token” is an incredible summer jam.
RIYL: El Guincho, Daft Punk, Beach Boys
2. Y La Bamba – Mujeres (Tender Loving Empire, Rock)
You won’t hear anything this year that sounds like the title track from Mujeres. Sung all in Spanish and detailing a complete picture of 21st-century multicultural life, the song bangs with a group dynamic that is rarely heard on such a well-produced album. These are anthems, but they’re also serious. The songs are dense, but not flashy. If you like your music experimental without sacrificing fun, this record is for you.
RIYL: Priests, Pussy Riot, Women
3. Harlem – Oh Boy (Female Fantasy, Rock)
Too punk to be top 40 and too damn fun to be indie rock, Harlem’s 2010 album Hippies is the perfect rock and roll party album. Until now, it felt like a fluke – a strange flagpole in a sea of dull rock albums. Now there’s another album, and another party to be had. Michael Crooners is still jumping off the kick drum on songs like “Swervin,” proving that being the life of the party is still in style.
RIYL: Spoon, The Seeds, Black Lips
4. Mercury Rev/Various Artists – Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited (Partisan, Rock)
Track for track, this is a reimagining of Bobbie Gentry’s 1968 album, and a shot in the gut to people like me who are just now getting turned on to her music. Handing lead vocal duties to songwriting stalwarts like Hope Sandoval and Lucinda Williams was a stroke of genius. Mercury Rev don’t put the complete weight of reimagining a classic on their shoulders. As such, their reverence for Gentry is clear as day. The record is produced with a calm perfection that’s hard to find in our increasingly fast-paced culture.
RIYL: Stereolab, Margo Price, Neko Case
5. Beirut – Gallipoli (4AD, Rock)
Playing more than ever on the minimalism that made songs like “Scenic World” so great, Zach Condon seems like he’s never going to stop coming up with fresh ideas. To boot, it’s still just as fun to sing along with his European croon than ever on tracks like “Landslide.”
RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, Iron and Wine